The Human Face of Plants
Saturday, May 27, 2023
|Left - Rosa 'Princess Alexandra of Kent' & R. 'The Alexandra Rose' 27 May 2023|
friend Alex Summers died in 2009. In 1967 he was a member of the US Pestemon
Society. He was cranking out the newsletter with a mimeograph machine and
suddenly thought, “I hate the smell of this and I don’t even like penstemons.”
He quit, and a year later he founded the American Hosta Society.
|Photograph by me|
years ago the Perennial of the Year was Penstemon ‘Husker Red’. We had it in
our garden and it has been long gone as well of my memory of what it looked
like. Perhaps it has to do that the plants and trees that Rosemary and I had in
our Kerrisdale garden had faces on them or interesting stories.
Just about every
hosta in my garden has the face of the hybridizer or the person who introduced
it. Roses are the same in evoking faces of friends or stories that surpass
anything that I might have known about Husker Red.
Saturday 27 May, 2023 and I am trying to keep my chin up in the shambles of a
house that has holes in walls and in ceilings and most of my possessions have
been taken for storage. I may be lucky if my house returns to what it was in
the beginning of August.
scan plants, deadhead my roses, walk Niño and try not to think too much of my
Rosemary. It saddens me immensely to do so.
looking at my roses in the sun that we were not supposed to have and noticed
that two English Roses related to the name of my daughter Alexandra were in
bloom. One is R. ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ and the other is R. ‘The
insisted in buying them because of the name and how it made us think of our
Lillooet, BC daughter.
penstemon may have gotten the short end of the stick in our garden I find it
impossible in not thinking of Rosemary when I see her fave Camellia ‘Donation’
or just about ever rose that she taught me to love.
plants in my garden have her face and the face of many others dear to me. And
all my hostas are all Alex Summers.
Above is a photograph of my mother taken in 1951 in our Buenos Aires garden. My Kitsilano garden is much too small for me to grow a wisteria (glicina in Argentine Spanish) but when I see it growing in Vancouver gardens they are all my mother. Could it be that the face of a plant makes it the person, too?
Cruel to Be Kind
Friday, May 26, 2023
|Rosa 'La Belle Sultane' 27 May 2023|
to the concept that if a tree falls in the garden and nobody is around to hear
it, did it really happen? I wonder if
Leonardo ever got feedback on his Gioconda? Did he paint it in artistic
pleasure in tending to a garden is the sharing of it. From 1986 Rosemary and I
shared our garden with each other, with our visiting granddaughters (before
they became teenagers), and the busloads of Americans that came from the US to
see our corner Kerrisdale garden.
opened our garden for a weekend of visits from the members of the Vancouver
Rose Society. For days before, we removed unsightly yellow or black spot leaves.
The lawn was perfect. There was not a weed to be seen anywhere.
When we moved
to our Kitsilano home we kept the tradition of opening our garden to the VRS in mid-June.
almost at the end of May my garden is a riot of open rose shrubs (I hate to use
the word bush) and Rosemary would be worried as to what roses would be in bloom
in June for the open garden. I am not in the least worried. The odd roses that
will be open will be side by side by my splendid hostas and the perennials that
Rosemary instructed me to buy every year.
But there is
one feeling of grief as I preen the garden. I cannot share its beauty with my
Rosemary. The three neighbouring duplexes have never shown interest in the
garden. In fact one offensive couple have complained that my Rosa ‘Complicata’(
very large and overlooking the back lane) makes is difficult (really?) for them
to put stuff in their garbage bins. One of them said to me, “It is not our
fault that you want to have a garden.”
love to be in the garden but the only feedback I get from Niño and Niña is
their comfort in being in it and enjoying the sun under one of the metal benches.
Rosemary would understand the concept of Cruel to Be Kind. This was a lovely
song composed by Brit rocker Nick Lowe. I tell people who may be interested
that the song is in my head when I prune roses. If they are to bloom and have
healthy canes one has to be brutal.
|Nick Lowe at the Commodore Ballroom|
One of my
favourite rose scans from the summer 2001 was that of Rosa ‘Jacqueline du Pré’.
She did not bloom last year because she was surrounded by an overly aggressive Gallica
Rose, Rosa ‘La Belle Sultane’. Today (27 May but I am placing the blog on the 26th as I try to fill my blog holes) I decided to be cruel to be kind by
removing with my secateurs many branches with buds that were about to open.
Why? I wanted light to reach Jacqueline du Pré.
I hope that
she does bloom in June. I know full well that Rosemary would have agreed to my
|Rosa 'Jacqueline du Pré' 6 June 2022|
|Rosa 'La Belle Sultane' & Hosta 'Neptune' 24 May 2023|
Nothing Gold Can Stay & My Hosta 'Robert Frost'
Thursday, May 25, 2023
|Rosa 'Abraham Darby' (6 inches wide!) & Hosta 'Robert Frost' 27 May 2023|
|Rosa 'Charles de Mills' & Hosta 'Designer Genes' 26 May 2023|
incidents happen that are important in my life I remember the aphorisms and
advice that my Valencia educated grandmother would give me. Little did I know
then that many were the advice Sancho Panza gave to his knight boss.
them comes to mind especially in this century where knowledge is dissipating
the 20th I was no better, and my lack of curiousity for some of the
fine points of literature was in effect.
I was going to an American university, Mexico City College, in Mexico City. In
an American Literature class our professor was whit-haired and he even looked
like his good friend Robert Frost who had died the year before. I remember that
I sat in the back row completely bored and with no curiousity to ask the man about
his moments with the poet.
hosta kingdom of over 15,000 registered specimens there are only two named
after poets. I have Hosta ‘Robert Frost’. As soon as I became most interested
in Emily Dickinson, Hosta ‘Emily Dickinson’ was no longer available in the
Vancouver and BC nurseries. Alas!
Robert Frost is an old introduction from at least 28 years ago and its
variegation is staid. One of the reasons is that I have it in deep shade. With
more sun it could become more exciting.
other hand just like I wrote about the human face of plants and how I connect
them to people I know or the history of humans behind them, Hosta ‘Robert Frost’
made me look for a poem that I could associate with hostas. I hit paydirt! There is a host in my garden that is astoundingly gold (yellow) as it emerges in May. It is now huge. But it is viridescent which means as the season progresses it becomes green.
Nothing Gold Can Stay - Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Not a Tina Turner R.I.P. or even a Keith Richards R.I.P.
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Kits home flooded from top to bottom I am living and sharing a hell with Niño
and Niña. After more than a week with noisy “dehuminizers” (what I call
dehumidifiers) they are tearing walls, removing floors and carpets not to
mention perhaps tomorrow go at the ceilings. Luckily my bedroom and bathroom
are intact and the three of us have that blessing when we close the doors. Another refuge is my oficina. Both cats
follow me. It is quiet there.
I have a
lot of time to try to distract myself in the garden, scanning roses and writing
a few blogs. Today’s is a strange one.
I know that
Keith Richards was born December 18, 1943 and that President Joe Biden on November 20, 1942. It means that
since I was born August 31, 1942, I am older that the man everybody is waiting to
die so that they can be first with their social media R.I.P. At the same time,
folks are opining that Biden is becoming senile. What path awaits me?
|My scanned vintage print (Ilford Ilfospeed)|
course Tina Turner died today and she was 83.
made me reflect on a subject that is ancillary to all the above.
photographed Tina Turner performing at the Commodore on March 1983. I believe
that it may have been one of the last times when Les Wiseman’s In One Ear, Vancouver Magazine column
featured a concert photograph.We both agreed that pictures of rock singers with
their mikes while performing, lacked all personal style. By 1983 his column had
great credibility and Vancouver Magazine was the best magazine around. The then
powerful record reps gave us access to their stars either at their hotel rooms
my photographic career I have always attempted to go my way and to test
Tina Turner with a film camera did not have the convenience of the instant
result of today’s digital cameras. You did have to know what you were doing.
One of my methods was to use slower shutter speeds to unfreeze motion. I also
used a very slow very sharp film called Kodak Technical Film. No lab processed
so I took care of it in my darkroom.
interesting to compare my darkroom print which was in my Tina Turner file with a
scan of the negative that I did today. As my friend custom printer Trevor
Martin told me,”Your German Schneider Componon enlarging lens was sharp but it
simply cannot compete with your Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner.
Luck is not chance - Emily Dickinson
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
|Gary Cramer & the Works - circa 1979-80|
With all the recent talk about artificial intelligence I
believe that many forget how good search engines have become since Altavista
paved the way so many years ago.
I am trying fill holes in my blog so I think of easy ones
that I can do in a jiffy. This one is about my beginner’s luck. I put luck,
Emily Dickinson into Google and found:
Luck is not chance- Emily Dickinson
Luck is not chance—
Fortune's expensive smile
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
My Rosemary, our two daughters and I arrived to Vancouver
from Mexico City in our VW bug. By 1977 I was shooting for magazines and in
particular for Malcolm Parry and Rick Staehling’s Vancouver Magazine. I was
soon seconded to work with Les Wiseman who had a column on rock & roll
called In One Ear. I was dispatched to photograph bands. I was completely
ignorant on the topic. The first band I ever photographed was Gary Cramer &
the Works. Somehow got it all right and
it is one of my fave band shots. It is not too studied and the folks in the
picture appear likeable and unpretentious (this they were).
My second band shot was of Art Bergmann and the Young Canadians.
In neither of these two photographs did I use what was to become my trademark –
|Young Canadians - Circa 80/81|
Perhaps one of the reasons for my good luck is that Les
Wiseman had an innate elegant way of telling me about the bands I was to
photograph. He was low key but to use the lingo of the time , “right on”.
In the summer of 2001 I was bored. I went to my garden and cut a couple of Rosa 'Reine Victoria' roses. I put them on my scanner using a bamboo stick attached to anArt Deco lamp. The scan was beautiful. I saw the possibilities so I made sure my scan was at 100% the size of the rose, that the colour was accurate and I wrote down the date.
|Rosa 'Reine Victoria' Summer of 2001|
I was not to know that by today in May 2023 I may have over 3000 of these "scanographs". Particularly now I am busy having fun (and fun it is) arranging the roses and their leaves on my Epson V700 flatbed scanner. Walking Niño mid afternoon and scanning the plants gives me a sense of purpose and a small distraction to avoid my grief over having lost my Rosemary two and a half years ago.
While I cannot credit Les Wiseman for my beginner's luck with scanning roses give all the credit to Rosemary who gently pulled me into appreciating gardening and learning to love all the snobbish plants she so liked.